Friday, May 27, 2011

Theatre of Blood (1973)

To let me write a review of Theatre of Blood is like giving puppy dog tails to the big green dragon that eat puppy dog tails. My life with TOB has been long and nice and I plan to watch it many, many times in the future. The first version I got was a HORRIBLE bootleg-tape, I’m sure we’re talking ten generations down! It was virtually impossible to watch – but I watched it anyway and fell in love with a movie that I consider the best black comedy of all time. Some years later I found a nice-looking tape at the Sci-fi bookstore in Stockholm nowadays I’ll stick with the Midnite Movies-version until a better version comes around.

The story is so familiar I won’t even comment on it, but let’s instead discuss the art of playing a bad actor in a masterful way. This is a hard thing to grasp, because Vincent Price makes one of his best performances ever and is basically playing a happy, over-the-top actor who very rarely leaves his character of a bad actor going bad. I’m sure Vincent is the only one who could have done this to perfection, mostly he was very good in doing campy performance, but with an edge. Edward Lionheart himself, the character played by Price, isn’t THAT bad of an actor, just very hammy. But he sure has passion and fits great on a theatre stage. I’m sure the reason Lionheart became hated by the critics was his 100 % lack of self-distance.

So what could have been a very campy and silly horror movie transforms itself to one of the smartest and best black comedies of all time. The horror is gory and bloody, and the filmmaker never shy away from the gruesome stuff, which makes it work even better. To make it black you have to really go all the way. But in the middle of all the violence, happy Shakespeare-recreations and the solid cast we have a scenes that brings everything down to earth, something that shows the humanity – and self-indulgence – of Edward Lionheart. This happens just after he didn’t get the award for best actor, and rushes up to the critics and holds a final speech before throwing himself from the balcony. This is by far the strongest scene in the movie, because both Vincent suddenly becomes so real. This is him, this is the real Lionheart, far from over-acting. If this wasn’t a horror movie with blood and gore it would have given Vincent Price an Oscar.

It’s a scene that’s needed to balance the campiness, to give the characters, the motive and story extra depth. And I never get tired of this scene. It still gives me goose-bumps. Sometimes even tears in my eyes…

I also want to turn your attention to another of the movies brilliant performance. All actors are perfect, but Harry Andrews is my favourite. He personifies the dirty old man with Trevor Dickman! This is of course even more fun when you put in perspective that Andrews was gay and in ab longtime relationship with his partner Basil Hoskins. I guess it takes someone completely opposite to play dirty old men hunting young women! Anyway, in his final scene he’s gonna act to be a bad actor – and I mean REALLY bad. And he makes it so good that I can remember all bad amateur actors I’ve seen in hundreds of indie SOV movies, school plays and local TV-advertising. I’m impressed, very impressed.

Ok, this wasn’t a review. It was mostly ramblings about acting in a movie about acting and I never get tired of that. Theatre of Blood is one helluva movie and the crown on Vincent Price’s impressive career. I miss him a lot, because he’s one of those actors I really would have liked to talk with, listen to. If he was alive today I would have been 100 years young and I’m sure he would have kept going with everything he loved: acting, food, art and just having a blast.

Happy Birthday Vince, thanks for making me see how we all could enjoy life to the fullest!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Price was one of the greatest actors, but most of all he was unique and special. Things you can´t find these days.